U.S. General Mark Milley told the Senate on Tuesday that two calls he made to his Chinese military counterpart in the waning months of the Trump presidency were in response to “concerning intelligence” that China was worried about a U.S. attack.

Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, drew controversy after details of the calls were revealed in a recently released book titled “Peril,” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

After hefty criticism from Republicans, the subject ended up hijacking Tuesday’s hearing in the Senate, which was nominally set to focus on the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

What was the nature of the calls with China?

Milley said the two calls were made on October 30, 2020 and January 8 this year to General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The book said the calls were “secret" and claimed Milley had promised to warn China first if he were ordered to attack.

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Milley confirmed he had made the calls, but said they had been fully coordinated with then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the time, and national security agencies.

The second call, made two days after the Capitol riot, was done at the request of the Chinese and coordinated with then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller’s office, Milley said.

The top U.S. Army general said that these kind of military-to-military communications are critical to prevent war between nuclear-armed powers.

“My task at that time was to de-escalate. My message again was consistent: Stay calm, steady, and de-escalate. We are not going to attack you,” Milley said.

When the reports first surfaced, Trump had said Milley should be fired if they were true, also saying he “never even thought” of attacking China.

Milley acted to ‘ensure strategic stability’

Milley said that the calls were conducted as part of his mandate to ensure strategic stability.

“I am certain President Trump did not intend on attacking the Chinese and it is my directed responsibility to convey presidential orders and intent,” Milley said.

“At no time was I attempting to change or influence the process, usurp authority, or insert myself in the chain of command,” he added.

On Pelosi call after Capitol Hill attack

Milley said that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had also called him on January 8, two days after Trump supporters had stormed the U.S. Capitol protesting his imminent exit, to discuss President Trump.

The Washington Post reported that Pelosi had asked him what safeguards were in place to keep an “unstable president” from launching a nuclear strike.

The book cites what it says is a transcript of Milley’s call with Pelosi, seeming to suggest the general concurred with Pelosi’s claim that Trump was “crazy” after the election of November 2020.

Milley distanced himself from this, telling lawmakers he had reassured Pelosi that an accidental or unauthorized attack was not possible, and saying that he told her, “I am not qualified to determine the mental health of the President of the United States.”

This article was originally published on Deutsche Welle. Read the original article here.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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